Laura Story: The Change You Never Wanted
About the Guest
Maybe you’re in a season where life took a turn into something you never wanted.. How do you move forward & kiss normal goodbye? Singer-songwriter Laura Story talks about life upended…& a God who loves enough to remove the training wheels.
Laura Story: The Change You Never Wanted
Laura: We didn’t like each other, and we didn’t like ourselves; and it just was a tough time. A lot of it was because we were just kind of putting on a happy face rather than acknowledging that: the change we’d gone through was hard; the loss we had experienced was real. Once we had people help us understand what good biblical grief looks like, we could really grieve the things that we had lost.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: So it isn’t every day you have a singer/songwriter in the studio at FamilyLife Today.
Ann: I’m so excited!
Ann: And she has her guitar out!
Dave: You’re so excited because somebody else is playing the guitar besides me;—
Ann: No, I like it when you play too.
Dave: —she’s skilled!
Laura: We can start a band together! That’s what we could do.
Dave: That’s what we could do. [Laughter]
Ann: You guys!
Dave: I can get a bass.
We’ve got Laura Story back in the studio at FamilyLife Today.
Dave: And she’s already got the guitar in her hand.
Ann: Laura, we’re excited that you’re here again.
Laura: Y’all are so sweet! And thanks for having me. It’s just sweet to be with you guys.
Ann: It’s fun.
Dave: Yes; so what are we going to hear right now?
Laura: I have a new song—kind of—I have a book out called—
Dave: Yes; what’s it called, Laura?
Laura: It’s called So Long, Normal. And then, the song is called Hello Unknown. It’s for anyone who has kind of been forced to embrace a new normal; and then even asking the question of: “When are things going to get back to normal?” We kind of all realize—
Dave: Oh, yes!
Laura: —we’re so prone to want things to be normal again or to want things to be sturdy again. This song talks about just the excitement of God’s plan being bigger than just returning to normal. I think it’s Ephesians that talks about God doing exceedingly more than we could ever ask.
Dave: Ephesians 3:20; it’s one of my favorite life verses.
Laura: Yes! So, we’re reminded that normal is way too small for God; for what God has in store for His children. So this is kind of a fun/hopefully, a song that gets people excited about leaving normal.
[Laura singing Hello Unknown]
Laura: That’s a little snippet of it.
Dave: That’s good.
Ann: It’s so good.
Laura: I know! I needed a drummer on that one.
Dave: Talk to us about what that song means to you, because you’ve walked through—we all have—leaving normal, as you write about So Long, Normal. How do you get an excitement about the abnormal?
Dave: I know it’s not abnormal, but it’s not normal; so you’ve got excitement.
Ann: I mean, it’s hard to write a song in a positive note of what we’ve been through; but you’re always looking at: “No, what is ahead?”—
Ann: —and “This is a good place to be/that we’ve left normal.” One of your lines was “We’re freefalling into Jesus.”
Laura: Yes; and I don’t want it to sound like I haven’t grieved at all.
Laura: The loss of—well, we’re calling it normal here; but the loss of things, whether that’s with COVID—or even with our own story, with Martin and I—and the things we’ve walked through with our marriage and our family with his brain injury. I think, at the very beginning of it all, we spent our first four or five years in a little bit of denial. It’s not even so much that we were in denial; but as believers, we didn’t know how to grieve.
We knew that we had gone through this complete change, where expectations seemed to have been dashed in a lot of ways. Everything about our future ended up looking different. As believers, I think we kind of felt like we needed to just kind of put one of those Romans 8:28 bandages on it—
Laura: —and go, “’We believe all things are working together for good.’ We trust God! We’ll be fine.”
Ann: —or even James: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials.”
Laura: Exactly! And when you’re not counting it all joy, you just kind of feel, “Well, I’m a lousy Christian; I must not trust God.”
It was probably five years into things with Martin’s brain injury that we kind of were at the place, both in our marriage and in our personal lives, where we were just kind of putting on a happy face rather than acknowledging that: the change we had gone through was hard; the loss we had experienced was real. Once we had people help us understand what good biblical grief looks like, we could really grieve the things that we had lost.
Dave: So what does that look like?
Laura: One thing: acknowledging that grief is not the opposite of faith. I think, for a while, for some reason, I just thought, “I can’t be sad about what’s happened if I really trust that God’s going to work it together for good.” One Psalm that was especially helpful—Psalm 13—where the psalmist says things to God that I was like, “Are you allowed to say that?!” [Laughter] It was like a bad Facebook® rant; and I’m going, “How did that get in the Bible?”
But he says: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide Your face from me?” Honestly, he was just being honest about how weary his soul was. You see that in different places in the Psalms.
Ann: Did you read that and think, “That is me. That’s exactly what I feel”?
Laura: Yes! There are so many moments, when we’re honest, that it does feel like God’s hiding from us.
Dave: Right, right.
Laura: Or it does feel like He has forsaken us. We know that His promises are true; but somehow, we can’t quite figure out why it doesn’t seem to be applying to me in this particular situation.
Ann: I’m thinking of the people [who] have lost loved ones with COVID,—
Ann: —and they couldn’t even be with them. That deserves to be grieved, you’re saying.
Laura: Yes, especially when you’re thinking about: “Okay; God—I know that He has this plan for abundant life for me!”—and then you’re going through this situation, where your husband has this brain injury. You’ve prayed and prayed every day for God to heal it, and He hasn’t yet. You’re going, “God, it really does feel like You have forsaken me.” I think being able to be honest about that was really helpful. But I love, even in that Psalm, the psalmist doesn’t stop there.
Dave: Yes; I was just looking at it.
Laura: Yes! It’s six short verses. You have time to stop;—
Laura: —whatever you’re doing, just stop and read it right now.
Ann: Dave, read it to us.
Dave: Okay. [Laughter]
Laura: “Find that”; right?
Dave: Give me a moment here, alright? [Laughter]
Laura: Do it; go on!
Dave: I’m grieving through this whole process. [Laughter] And it is written by David. It says:
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”
That’s just two verses.
Dave: And then, verse 3:
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
And then, the last two; it’s like two, two, two.
Dave: The last one turns:
But I have trusted in Your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, because
He has dealt bountifully with me.
Laura: Well, when you think about kind of what David lays out there, he begins his worship of God with honesty; he begins it with this grief. It’s not that we have to check it at the door and put on smiley faces when we come into church; you know? He’s honest with God about the sorrow that he feels, but he doesn’t stay there. You know, the Bible talks about us grieving, but not as those without hope.
I love even just the progression there of: “Okay, so what’s our role in this?” We’re honest before God, and then we trust. He said, “I’ve trusted Your lovingkindness; my heart will rejoice in Your salvation.” Then, I think this is especially—special for me!—because it says, “I will sing—
Ann: I thought of that for you too.
Laura: Yes!—“because You have dealt bountifully with me.” It’s like he’s turning around and looking at his life—and God’s track record of faithfulness—and he says, “That is worth singing about.”
Dave: I think, sometimes, when we read a Psalm like that, we tend to think it’s quick.
Dave: It’s six verses: verse 1, he’s “How long?”; verse 6, he’s trusting and singing. You’re like, “That took two minutes/three minutes.”
Dave: But it often can take days, months—or for you, it took years—it takes years for all of us.
Laura: Yes, but I think it’s also—I appreciate the progression in the Psalm—but I don’t/it’s not necessarily like he moved from a place of grieving to a place of rejoicing. I think what I’ve learned is—
Dave: It was amidst it.
Laura: Yes; these things can happen simultaneously. Your praise can begin prior to you understanding why the things that are happening to you are happening. Your praise is kind of your response in the waiting. Worship isn’t this thing you do after God has explained it all; you know?
Especially, I think about the life of Job. It’s not at the end that he says, “Though He slay me, yet I will worship.” It’s not when he begins to see God’s hand more clearly. It’s, in the midst of it, he says, “The only way I’m going to get through this is to continue to sing.”
For me, as I’ve just—five years, I talked about, you know, us kind of hitting a really hard season for each of us personally and for us in our marriage—I wrote/I’ll say a journal entry that ended up being a song. It was probably the most honest and the most vulnerable I’ve ever been in songwriting, but it was a song called Blessings. I began by talking about my fears and my doubts, and then asking these questions of: “God, is it possible that You could use all of this pain for Your glory? Is it possible that it’s the sleepless nights that are actually providing me that closeness that I’ve so long prayed to have with You?”
It was that song—again, not writing about some truths that I’ve mastered—but I feel like it’s what God knew that I needed to sing, night after night for the next ten years; because it’s not about: “Everything’s resolved, and my soul can be okay,”—it’s, “No, no. As long as I have the Lord, as long as He is with me, as long as I am clinging to His promises, things don’t have to be okay in order for me to be okay.”
Ann: The first time I heard that song, Laura, I can remember where I was. Isn’t it funny how songs/you kind of connect. I remember I was driving on the highway. I turned—because I had never heard it; it was new out—I turned it up, and I just wept; because I was thinking, “Whoa! Someone’s being incredibly honest of what this feels like when you’re in pain.”
Dave: I mean, there’s so much truth. Even the line, “What if a thousand sleepless nights…” I mean, I hear that, and I’m like, “No, no, no! I don’t want a thousand sleepless nights.”
Dave: But the presence of God in that is even worth it.
Tell us the story about your kids.
Laura: Well, it’s not even really about my kids. It’s more about me and how, you know, you find out more about what you believe when you have kids.
Dave: [Laughing] That’s so true!
Laura: Because you see what you’re modeling, because they’ll really show you how you’re—
Ann: They call it out!
Laura: Yes; oh, they will definitely call it out.
And one of the verses that I’ve been thinking about more now, being a parent, is in Romans 5, where Paul talks about: “Rejoice in your suffering, because suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” It’s so often, as a parent, I want to see my kids grow in those virtues like endurance and character. “Can’t I just put them in a Sunday school class to teach them these things?!” [Laughter]
Ann: As a mom, you don’t want them to go through pain.
Laura: No, and that’s the thing. It’s been hard, thinking about with my kids, that my job isn’t necessarily to protect them from suffering or to teach them to wiggle out of situations that are hard;—
Laura: —because I truly want to see that in their lives. But I’m just as guilty/I’m just as guilty of wanting to learn things like endurance, and character, and hope, you know, through the latest Bible study; you know? [Laughter]
Ann: [Laughing] Yes!
Laura: If I could just learn these things some other way, but Scriptures so clear—and not just there—but throughout Scripture, talking about that deep work of the Spirit that comes only through how we meet with God in our suffering.
Ann: Are you different, based on the suffering that you’ve been through?
Laura: Oh, absolutely!
Ann: Who would you be if you hadn’t gone through it?
Laura: I’m certainly not as different as I wish I was. I’m certainly not as much like Jesus as I wish I was, but there has been somewhat of a freedom—you know, like the Proverbs 31 woman, who laughs at the days to come—there’s been somewhat of a freedom:
- When your life gets knocked so far off the tracks that you, you know, you think of this idea of, as a family, trying to “keep up with the Joneses”—the Joneses are like on a different planet; [Laughter] it’s not even—our life looks so different than most people’s lives that that’s not even an option for us. And there’s something that’s freeing about that.
- There’s something that’s freeing about how we have to function, because of my husband’s disability; okay? We have one driver in the family. Martin is unable to drive because of his vision, so we do less activities. I don’t think we’re going to get to heaven and go, “Oh, I just wish I had been busier!” [Laughter]
Ann: And God’s not saying, “Wow! Too bad, guys. I planned for you to do a lot of activities.”
Laura: That is exactly right.
- Or with Martin’s disability, sometimes, we just can’t move at as quick of a pace. It’s just how we are; so we find ourselves just going at a slower pace sometimes, and that’s always a blessing.
- We’ve learned so much about how our greatest fear, having kids, was how Martin’s disability would negatively affect our children; okay?—that was Martin’s greatest fear. I knew God would take care of it; but I think, when I’m really being honest, that was a big fear of mine as well.
And what we’re seeing and learning is, yes, things look different for our kids. Yes, there are limitations that we can’t—or we’re not going to sugarcoat—but Martin’s disability has been one of the clearest ways we have seen God work in our family; it’s been one of the clearest ways we’ve seen God work in the lives of our children.
I was picking up Josie from preschool; this was a few years ago. I take my kids on the road with me; so we’ll be on the road until late at night or early in the morning, however you want to see it. [Laughter] We had had one of those, where I brought Josie to preschool on probably five hours of sleep! You know, terrible mom!—I get it. But I was picking her up; and the teacher said, “Hey, can I speak to you a second?”
Dave: Oh, boy.
Ann: Oh, no!
Laura: I was like, “No, no!” She pulled me aside, and she said, “I want to brag on Josie for a second.” I’m thinking, “Okay, this is not at all what I was expecting here.” [Laughter] And she tells me about a boy, who has joined their class, who had some pretty severe learning disabilities; and how Josie had been so attuned to making sure he was getting in the line when he needed to, make sure he was keeping up with everything.
The question she asked me/the question she asked me/she said, “So what have you done, as a mom, to teach Josie to be so compassionate towards people with disabilities?” [Choking up] I wanted to laugh! That week, I had just had such a tough week. I think I had been driving around so much, and I’d been working so hard. Sometimes, it’s like, “God, I know You’re working it all together for good somehow! [Laughter] I’m just not seeing it!”
She asked me this, and I had an opportunity to say to her, “I don’t know if you know, but my husband has a brain injury and pretty severe learning disability, and that is what God has used to develop that character, that endurance, and that hope in our children; because He promises He’s not going to waste our suffering.
Laura: “He’s going to use it.”
Ann: I remember Chuck Swindoll, years ago/I heard him say, “Your pain will never be in vain.”
Ann: I’ve heard so many pastors—and Dave, you’ve said this—is: “Our pain, when we give it to God, can become our platform in some ways.”
I’m thinking about your daughter: “Who knows what God will do with that?”—and your kids—their heart and compassion; you know? God is shaping them and their character in these beautiful ways that you would have never chosen for your—
Laura: Absolutely not.
Ann: —you would have never chosen that for you guys; and yet God, in His goodness and His mercy, will use that for good.
Ann: I’m so thankful that He does.
Shelby: As I look back on my life, the areas that have been the most difficult and most uncomfortable are the prime areas that God has worked in my life to bring me, not only closer to Him, but closer to my spouse/closer to my kids. The fact is you lean on God more when you’re in places of discomfort.
Dave and Ann Wilson have been talking today with Laura Story, and she has pointed out that principle to us. What we want to be normal is often not what God wants for our lives; because we want normal to be easy, and God wants to use the circumstances and people in our lives to draw us closer to Him, to go deeper and become more godly people.
Laura has written a book called So Long, Normal: Living and Loving the Freefall of Faith. This is a book that talks about things like finding true community and encouragement in our struggles with uncertainty; discovering comforts and gifts to steady us on our journey, as opposed to releasing us from our difficult circumstances. When you head over to FamilyLifeToday.com, and make a donation of any amount, we are going to send you a copy of Laura Story’s book, So Long, Normal, as a way of saying, “Thank you for contributing to the ministry effort of FamilyLife Today.”
We care about getting resources like this into your hands, and into the hands of anyone, so that God will be glorified—not only in our personal lives—but in our marriages, as we parent, and as we are neighbors as well. Again, you can head over to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, make a donation of any amount, and we will send you a copy of Laura Story’s book. Or you can call at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
And while you’re at FamilyLifeToday.com, if you wanted to see Laura Story perform her song, Hello Unknown, she did that in the FamilyLife studios. You can find that link at FamilyLifeToday.com and watch that video of her performance.
Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be talking with Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher about Jesus and gender: rethinking our identities, and roles, and relationships around Christ instead of what the culture communicates. That’s coming up tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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Artist: Laura Story
Album: Single, (p) 2021, Fair Trade--Columbia
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